Producer Deren Abram says he could have struck a traditional broadcasting deal for his new series Spotlight America.
One network embraced the show's concept, a loving look at colorful communities across America, but suggested they "have a little bit more fun” with the presentation, Abram says.
“They wanted to dumb it down a little bit. I took that as poking fun at the people we were engaging,” Abram tells Big Hollywood. “I wanted my kids to see [the show] as more of a celebration [of America].”
So Abram decided to go for a more unconventional approach to bring Spotlight America into homes across the nation.
The series will be available in more than 30 million TV homes this spring, via a combination of cable and broadcast station carriage. The TV distributors presently carrying the series are LeSea Broadcasting, Blue Highways TV and Comcast Entertainment Television via an air barter system.
Advertising time is divided between the distributor and the producers. Each side must sell ad time to generate revenue, with Abram's production company using its funds for future episodes.
Abram's group is supplementing that effort with an Indiegogo.com campaign to further defray production-related costs.
Spotlight America's first installments focus on Colorado–Abram now calls Denver home after spending time in California. The show's first destinations, including Gunnison, CO, came from Abram's own family vacation trips.
“Little trips in your own backyard, just a few hours away, can be life-changing experiences,” says Abram, who envisions the show as something more than a standard travel program.
“It's getting into the nitty gritty about what’s behind the scenes of a community … it's working class America,” he says.
Spotlight America host Raleigh Cain and crew do their best to celebrate the country without making their presences felt.
“We're a very small crew. It's not very intimidating … so we can really get engaged and not change the dynamic,” he says. “We're promoting tourism in a character-driven way.”
Abram says Cain, a fourth grade teacher, beat out more than 240 people trying to become the face of Spotlight America. It's up to Cain to be the show's welcoming presence, and someone game for both zip lining and wine tastings.
“She’s such an all-American girl in so many ways,” he says.
Abram says his company will begin delivering episodes to networks April 1, but he understands the precarious nature of their task.
“We’ve given up on the hopes of making serious money that people normally do in television world,” he says, adding he's surprised this approach hasn't been done before.
“Maybe it has and it's been unsuccessful,” he says with a laugh. “We'' see how it works out for me.”